Welcome to The Road to Shodan - Yonah Wolf's Judo Blog, a journal of his progress towards obtaining his first-degree black belt (Shodan) in Kodokan Judo.
Yonah shares his insights, tips, tricks, and thoughts as he progresses in the art of Judo and fights his way towards his Black Belt (Shodan).
I know I am not the first Judoka to have a Judo blog, and certainly not the last. Now another one of my online Judo buddies has started a blog of his own - welcome Rapton to sharing your thoughts, passion and life with the world. Oh, yeah - happy birthday too.
I think maybe one of my products should be a listing of Judo Blogs? :)
Yesterday in Uchikomi our sensei asked us to move around and practice both Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi and Hiza Guruma. These two throws have similar action, and the most major difference is that the former is an ankle block, while the latter is a knee block.
Although my partner was doing them just fine, I couldn't get it right. Sensei kept correcting me and trying to help, but I just couldn't get it.
Some days, when I have a good workout, and I land some good solid throws in Randori, I feel like I am just one step away from a shiny new black belt. On other days, I feel that I am not worthy of wearing the brown belt around my waist.
I need to practice, practice, practice, and the return on my investment in improvement, will be a change in rank and more good judo days than bad ones.
Although, honestly, is there really such a thing as a bad Judo day?
On the scale this morning, I weighed 195 - I have been fluctuating between that and 200 over the past few weeks, but over the past week I have made an effort to stop cheating on my diet and push to lose those last 5-7 lbs to get me down between 185 and 190. I am actually at my lowest weight now in about 10 years. I noticed today that my spare tire - which was sizeable in July, is now reduced to barely any noticeable fat around my waist.
Judo has been a big part of this loss. The workout is really what keeps me burning those calories. Too bad I can't do it 6 days a week instead of 2-3.
In our class today, our sensei demonstrated a take-down that wasn't quite a Judo move. He showed how to turn an attacker's headlock from behind into a nifty armbar/wristlock with the attacker lying facedown on the ground. This move clearly was based on Jiu-Jitsu, but had some Judo-esque elements in it.
It reminded me that Judo is, after all, a Martial Art. It thought about how other techniques can be applied to self-defense as well. Not only is it a good workout, not only is it a great sport, but it can save your life too.
Sometimes I come out of my classes thinking that I am the Judo King. I tend to talk like I know everything - which is a mixed blessing. I had been getting progressively better in Ne-Waza and specifically in escapes. But then my Sensei, who is twice my age and at least 15-20 lbs lighter than me, held me down for almost a minute and I couldn't get up. Granted, he has been doing this all of his life and is a Sixth Degree Black-Belt, but still, I didn't even get him to budge. (At least he had to work to hold me down, with some of my classmates, he will sometimes pose as if he is lounging while holding them down to motivate them).
There is also a green belt in my class who is really good. Part of this, I'm sure is do to his extensive experience in TKD and other arts. We were in Randori and he tried using one of my favorite counters, Tani Otoshi, but he couldn't quite land it. He asked me to allow him to practice it on me, and he had the gist of it, but it wasn't quite w…
The term Gaeshi means 'reversal' in Japanese. Pretty much any and all of the throws that have this name applied to them are actually counter techniques that can be used against an opponent. For example O-Uchi Gaeshi - is a counter to the major inner reap.
I have been thinking a bit about counters and reversals lately, and although they may seem pretty easy in theory they are very difficult to do in practive. I also have been realizing that they embody many of the thinks that I like about Judo including the principal of Maximum Efficiency, and I would like to share some of that insight.
First off, we need to take into consideration that Judo is about constant attack. In fact, competitors are often penalized for being too defensive. Even from a self-defense standpoint Judoka always want to be making the first move, if not for anything else than for surprise. Given that, it would seem surprising that it even had reversals, but the tao of Judo is embodied in the principal of Seroku …
I have decided to compete at a small competition in February. Fittingly, the Competition is the Polytechnic University Invitational, run by my original Sensei at my Alma Mater. The school just built a new Gym in the past couple of years and it will be nice to see the facility firsthand. Of course, I still have yet to see the application packet, but it was promised in the next couple of weeks. The tourney will hopefully not be that big, and I only want to compete in 1 division. My weight has been holding steady between 195 and 200, so it shouldn't be too hard for me to shed enough weight to play in the -90KG group.
So I used my brand-new gi today and wound up with a blood stain on it. It is also still a drop too big, and needs to be shrunk one more time. So I will need to wash it twice - once in cold water to get the blood out, and once in hot water to shrink it down.
And I thought that uniforms were the simplest part of sports equipment.
The Judo classes that I attend are during the daytime (12-1:30, M/W/F) and as a result, we get a nice mixed crowd, primarily consisting of adults on their lunch breaks. Usually were between 8-12 people, and most of us are in the 30's and 40's with the ocassional college student or twentysomething person showing up. There are also a handful of guys who are in their 60's - two black belts and two green belts. Obviously the blackbelts have a lot of experience and skill, but you'd be surprised how hard of a time we all have with the green belts in Randori. I often comment to them how I wish I could have half their strength at 64, and I'd be okay. I guess having gone back to Judo was the first step in that direction.
It is funny. Normally when you buy clothing you pick a size that fits you so that as soon as you bring it home you can immediately put it on (generally though, I was my clothes once before wear, but I could put them on immediately if I wanted to). Judo Gi are a lot different. The proper size comes from the factory, just a little too big. You're expected to shrink-wash it so that it fits just right.
As I mentioned on Monday, I bought a new Gi from Toraki. They actually had me provide about ten different measurements and suggested a size for me. I shrink-washed it yesterday, and wouldn't you know it, it now fits exactly the way I like it. I can't wait to use it in class on Monday.
After a couple of false starts, I think I finally found a new gi that is a keeper - my TorakiSilver came yesterday. I need to shrink it down, but it looks and feels great. It's heavier than my current Gi, but not as heavy as some of the Competition-Grade double-weaves that I've seen. Maybe I will post a picture when I get it shrunk down to the right size.
So I am a brown belt, and I can honestly say that at this point, I know all of the 67 official throws of Judo by name, and can execute at least 60% of them with good, clean technique. In addition, I know all of the 7 official holds, most of the chokes, and 2-3 of the official armbar techniques. One might take a look at the curricula and say that I don't have much to learn, but that would be entirely wrong.
I view each class as a learning experience. I try to learn from both my Sensei and his assistants, people with greater rank, equal rank, and even lesser rank. Yesterday was no exception.
- I was humbled by a black belt that, as it turns out, was a former Olympian (not for the US). We were pretty evenly matched sizewise (I think he may have had 10 lbs on me, same height), so I knew it would be a good matchup. I was in Ne-waza with him, and no matter how many times we went at it, I was almost always on my back or tapping out. I am usually good defending against chokes, but he just …
John (not his real name) is a guy in my dojo who I often find myself going up against. I love playing and practicing with him for two reasons - he's a good technician with a wicked sense of humor and at my height with a good (more than one weight class) weight advantage over me, he poses an excellent challenge to me.
Today he powered through a Tai Otoshi against me. That was an excellent throw and I just couldn't defend against it. Although I didn't really throw him today, I still saw that some of my combinations were working and need some polishing up.
My rationale is if I can be successful against him in Randori and Ne-Waza, It will be much easier against people in my own weight class.
I've been noticing how much better I have become over the few short months that I've returned to Judo. I think that in the first few sessions I focused just on remembering the basics, while now I seem to have a good grip on the techniques I know, and I am constantly working to improve them with each subsequent session.
My Randori and Ne-Waza have also significantly improved to the point at which I think, given regular practicing schedule I will be ready to compete at the Comp in Feb. that I am considering. By ready, I mean I will be prepared to go up against people of similar rank and size, and win. My combinations seem to be working, and I am going Randori with a varied set of partners, so I have even more confidence in my abilities.
Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I am visualizing a medal around my neck.
So I had a bit of scare this weekend with a little tingle in my shoulder. Thankfully it seems that it is getting better and I hope it will be alright by tomorrow. As it works out, I am missing my workout today because of a work commitment, so my shoulder will get a little extra rest as a result. Now it isn't in pain at all, but on Friday I had trouble even turning the steering wheel on my car. I don't want to get injured period. Let alone one that will set back my progress and my triumphant (?) return to competition.
I think that I will investigate some of those joint aid supplements - like chrondroitin and glucosamine.
I have received a lot of positive feedback for it, and I know other people who have referred and/or linked to it. The thoughts for this article came both from the father in me who'd like to see his kids become Judoka as well. They also came from the coach in me.
I guess you could say that I have always been one to consider my knowledge and insight in any subject as a gift, and another gift being the ability to share that knowledge with others. Maybe one day, my belt will catch up to my abilities and I can be a coach too. For now, I will limit my coaching to solicited advice from my Uke during Uchikomi and Randori :)
In Judo, there is a concept of Toqui Waza - one's best or favorite technique. On the surface, it might seem that a person's Toqui Waza (TW, because I am lazy) is the technique that they practice the most or use the most in Randori. Maybe it is an arbitrary favorite just like one's favorite color or ice cream flavor. But this is definitely not the case. The truth is, for most people, your TW, finds you and not the other way around. At the end of the day, your TWwill be the throw(s) that you are able to best enter and execute properly under the widest variety of conditions.
To look at this in depth, we need to first think of how silly of a notion it seems to reveal your Toqui Waza to others - especially those that might compete against you. If I know that Uchiamata is your TW then, in theory, I should always be looking for your Uchimata and work on my counters to it - like Uchimata Sukashi, Te Guruma, Tani Otoshi, etc. Even if you don't formally announce this throw, if I…
So I am 90% sure (barring injuries, of course) that I will compete in February, this will be my first time in almost 8 years. (My last competition was the Mayor's Cup, where I wound up on a backboard as a precautionary measure after getting slammed with Osoto Gari to lose my last match in competition). Ironically, I remember now, 8 years later, what throw it was. When I was being put on the stretcher I remember one of the officials asking if I remember what throw I was thrown with to Ijure myself, my reply: 'If I knew that, I would have been able to counter it!'.
I mentioned this to a colleague yesterday. He asked where the tournament was, I said in Brooklyn. He asked me to get him the details when the time came so he could be there to root me on. He started to boost my confidence.
I think maybe when I was in college, I thought too much about not losing to ever think of winning. In addition, while my Sensei and teammates were very supportive, I didn't get that much supp…
At 30, I would like to think that I am still relatively young. Granted I am not nearly as flexible as I was a few years ago - and my knees have been reminding me of that all day long. But from a strength Stamina point of view, I don't see myself as significantly less strong than someone who is 25 and in the same realtive shape and size that I am.
But it seems that 30 is the cutoff age in many Judo tournaments. While many competitive Judoka over 30 compete in the general adult weight classes, many competitions have what they call 'masters' competitions. They generally break down every decade from 30 to 70 and have Judoka within the same age range fight one another.
I am wondering if a)Any of the competitions that I am going to will have such divisions, and b) Should I compete having an age edge over the 39 year olds that I will be playing. Granted most of the Judoka in my class are in the 30-45 age range, and most of them could easily give me a run for my money if not kick m…